The Big Clock

The Big Clock

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Overview

John Farrow's movie adaptation of Kenneth Fearing's The Big Clock, based on a screenplay by Jonathan Latimer (and produced by future James Bond screenwriter Richard Maibaum), is a near-perfect match for the book, telling in generally superb visual style a tale set against the backdrop of upscale 1940s New York and offering an early (but accurate) depiction of the modern media industry. Told in the back-to-front fashion typical of film noir, it opens with George Stroud (Ray Milland) trapped, his life in danger, his survival measured in the minute-by-minute movements of the huge central clock of the office building where he's hiding. In flashback we learn that Stroud works for media baron Earl Janoth (Charles Laughton), loosely based on Henry Luce, as the editor of Crimeways magazine. Janoth is a manipulative, self-centered megalomaniac with various obsessions, including clocks; among other manifestations of the latter fixation, the skyscraper housing his empire's headquarters has as one of its central features a huge clock that reads out the time around the world down to the second. Twenty-four hours earlier, on the eve of a combined honeymoon/vacation with his wife, Georgia (Maureen O'Sullivan), that has been put off for seven years, Stroud was ordered by Janoth to cancel the trip in order to work on a special project, and he resigned. As the narrative picks up speed, in his depression, Stroud misses the train his wife is on and crosses paths with Pauline York (Rita Johnson), a former model for Janoth's Styleways magazine, who is also Janoth's very unhappy mistress, and the two commiserate by getting drunk together in a night on the town. While hurriedly leaving Pauline's apartment, he glimpses Janoth entering. Janoth and York quarrel, and the publisher kills her in a jealous rage, using a sundial that she and Stroud picked up the night before while wandering around in their revels. Janoth and his general manager, Steve Hagen (George Macready), contrive to pin the murder on the man that Janoth glimpsed leaving York's apartment, whom he thinks was named Jefferson Randolph -- the name Stroud was drunkenly bandying about the night before. He gets Stroud back to Crimeways to lead the magazine's investigators in hunting down "Jefferson Randolph," never realizing that this was Stroud. And Stroud has no choice but to return, desperately trying to gather evidence against Janoth and, in turn, prevent the clues gathered by the Crimeways staff from leading back to him. The two play this clever, disjointed game of cat-and-mouse, Janoth and Hagen planting evidence that will hang "Randolph" (and justify his being shot while trying to escape), while Stroud, knowing what they don't about how close the man they seek to destroy is, arranges to obscure those clues and, in a comical twist, sends the least capable reporters and investigators to follow up on the most substantial clues. Janoth sometimes seems to be unraveling at the frustrating pace and lack of conclusion to the hunt, but Stroud can't escape the inevitable, or the moments of weakness caused by fear and his own guilt over his near-unfaithfulness to his wife or the inscrutable gaze of Janoth's mute bodyguard Bill Womack (Harry Morgan), a stone-cold killer dedicated to protecting his employer. The trail of proof and guilt winds ever tighter around both men, taking some odd twists courtesy of the eccentric artist (Elsa Lanchester) who has seen the suspect. Milland is perfect in the role of the hapless Stroud, and Laughton is brilliant as the vain, self-centered Janoth, but George Macready is equally good as Hagen, his smooth, upper-crust Waspy smarminess making one's skin crawl. Also worth noting is Harry Morgan's sinister, silent performance as Womack, and sharp-eyed viewers will also recognize such performers as Douglas Spencer, Noel Neill (especially memorable as a tart-tongued elevator operator), Margaret Field (Sally's mother), Ruth Roman, and Lane Chandler in small roles. Additionally, the Janoth Publications building where most of the action takes place is almost a cast member in itself, an art deco wonder, especially the room housing the clock mechanism and the lobby and vestibules, all loosely inspired by such structures as the Empire State Building and the real-life Daily News headquarters on East 42nd Street. This film was later remade as No Way Out.

Product Details

Release Date: 05/14/2019
UPC: 0760137242581
Original Release: 1948
Source: Arrow Video
Time: 1:36:00

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Ray Milland George Stroud
Charles Laughton Earl Janoth
Maureen O'Sullivan Georgette Stroud
George Macready Steve Hagen
Elsa Lanchester Louise Patterson
Rita Johnson Pauline York
Dan Tobin Roy Cordette
Harold Vermilyea Don Klausmeyer
Henry Morgan Bill Womack
Richard Webb Nat Sperling
Tad Van Brunt Tony Watson
Elaine Riley Lily Gold
Luis Van Rooten Edwin Orlin
Lloyd Corrigan Mckinley
Margaret Field Second Secretary
Philip Van Zandt Sidney Kislav
Henri Letondal Antique Dealer
Douglas Spencer Bert Finch
Eric Alden Actor
Harry Anderson Guard
Lane Chandler Doorman
Lester Dorr Cabby
Ralph Dunn Actor
Bess Flowers Stylist in Conference Room
Theresa Harris Daisy
Edna Holland Staff Member
Bert Moorhouse Editor
Diane Stewart Girl
Napoleon Whiting Bootblack
B.G. Norman George, Jr.
Bobby Watson Morton Spaulding
Frances Morris Grace Adams
Erno Verebes Waiter
Lucille Barkley Hatcheck Girl
Frank Orth Burt, the Bartender
Harland Tucker Seymour Roberts
Gordon Richards Warren Parks
Joe Whitehead Fisher
James Burke O'Brien
Joey Ray Joe Talbot
Henry Guttman Man at Van Barth's
Len Hendry Bill Morgan
Harry Rosenthal Charlie
Noel Neill Elevator Operator
Bea Allen Elevator Operator
Mary Currier Ivy Temple
Earl Hodgins Guide
Robert Coleman Messenger
Norman Leavitt Tourist
William Meader Airways
Jerry James Man with Fish
Julia Faye Secretary
Pepito Perez Headwaiter at Van Barth's
Barry Norton Man at Van Barth's
Ruth Roman Bit Part
Charlie Hall Actor

Technical Credits
John Farrow Director,Producer
Roland Anderson Art Director
William H. Coleman Asst. Director
Sam Comer Set Decoration/Design
Ross Dowd Set Decoration/Design
Hans Dreier Art Director
Ray Evans Songwriter
Daniel L. Fapp Cinematographer
Edith Head Costumes/Costume Designer
Gordon Jennings Special Effects
Jonathan Latimer Screenwriter
Jay Livingston Songwriter
Richard Maibaum Producer
Albert Nozaki Art Director
Gene Ruggiero Editor
John F. Seitz Cinematographer
LeRoy Stone Editor
Wally Westmore Makeup
Victor Young Score Composer

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The Big Clock 2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿The Big Clock¿ is a brilliant labyrinth of dark humor and cyclical twists and turns ¿ rather like riding a funhouse car into the murky blackness of uncertainty but with the nervous expectation that you are about to be frightened out of your mind. The film is a taut, lean thriller that presents a curious predicament for its hero, George Stroud (Ray Milland). He¿s a star reporter who is assigned to cover the murder of a mysterious woman by his punctually obsessed editor, Earl Janoth (Charles Laughton). There¿s just one little wrinkle that needs to be overcome; the overworked Stroud not only knows the woman in question but spent the night with her before she met with her untimely demise. There¿s also something else to consider; the woman was Janoth¿s mistress. Now the question arises for Stroud: how to accurately cover the scoop, report all the facts, expose the killer and keep his own name out of the proceedings. Both men are feverishly working to solve the crime, unwittingly culminating in accusations that will expose both their prior relationships with the corpse. Elsa Lanchester appears as Louise Patterson, the high-strung painter whose sketch of the prime suspect slowly begins to take on the figure of George Stroud. ¿The Big Clock¿ was remade in 1987 as the Kevin Costner thriller, ¿No Way Out¿. This is a very disappointing transfer from Universal. The gray scale is poorly balanced with unstable contrast levels and very rough looking whites. Fine detail seems slightly out of focus and, in most cases, is completely lost in a sea of tonal gray. Occasionally pixelization breaks apart the background information ¿ but only briefly and usually between dissolves. There¿s also a minor hint of edge enhancement that is barely noticeable. The audio is mono but very nicely cleaned up. There are no extras.